Saturday, 29 March 2014

STAXX BURGER CHICKEN & WAFFLE HOUSE

236 King Street East, Hamilton
(289) 396-4162
visited Friday March 29, 2014

My husband and I were only recently introduced to this glorious pairing of chicken and waffles this past September when we visited family in Florida.  We went to a restaurant featured on 'Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives' and had one of those Oprah AHA moments... chicken n waffles may be the greatest pairing ever! Since that divine first experience I've been making my own version at home- and if I can toot my own horn, I must say I've been killing it! But enough about me and onto this new, and only, chicken n waffle joint here in Hamilton. 

Fried Chicken & Waffles $10.60
Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House (its a mouthful to say and so is their food!) is the real deal folks.  We obviously ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles $10.60 and upgraded to the Pure Canadian Maple Syrup for an extra .70cents.  The waffles were absolutely stellar with a crisp outer crust and a soft doughy interior.  I like my waffles with a bit of carb-o-licious  weight to them, as in not too airy and light where you feel like all you're eating is, well....air!  These were perfect in texture, weight and flavour.  And now the chicken- oh that crispy, juicy, delicious fried goodness.  It too was absolute perfection.  The exterior crust was seasoned well and had the right ratio of breading to skin to meat.  I couldn't get the secret recipe of course, but I'll take a guess and say their may have been corn flakes or something similar in the breading.  I found myself scooping up all those lil crispy fried pieces at the bottom of my plate near the end.  The interior was so extremely juicy and cooked just right.  I did get a few secrets out of one of the owners and he told me the chicken goes through a 48hr marinade- the first 24 hours in buttermilk (that's how I do mine too I might add), and then 24 hours in a brine (i'll have to add this step to my homemade version now).   I drenched my plate in maple syrup and hot sauce and went to chicken n waffle utopia.  The portion is ridiculously big, with three large pieces of chicken and two full waffles, which equals eight quarters- I'm not just a pretty face, I can do math too! Don't worry I didn't eat all of this alone, I had my handy husband to help out- but most people were walking out with doggy bags, so come hungry when you do decide to visit. 

Chicken n Waffle plates come with dark n white meat and we asked for all dark upon ordering.  The cooks failed to see the substitution on the chit (that's the lil order form they get in the back) and a dreadful piece of white meat showed up in my order.  I had a couple bites and it was actually super juicy and not the typical white meat experience I'm accustomed too... sorry to all you white meat lovers out there but its just not the best part of a chicken.  Our server was quick to rectify the situation and was very apologetic and we simply had to wait for another piece of dark meat to be fried up.  We didn't mind the wait as we had a burger to get through as well.

Staxx Southwest Burger $10.80
James ordered the Staxx Southwest Burger $10.80 that came with TWO beef patties, chipotle mayo, lettuce, bacon, onion straws and housemade BBQ sauce.  I saved some space for a few big bites of this and it was indulgent and extremely tasty.  The bacon had a great hickory smoked flavour that was very prominent on the palate and the onion straws gave a great texture.  The patties were super meaty and two of them stacked together sent my husband to burger utopia.  You know that moment when you're not talking to each other and concentrating on your food and floating up to a dreamy food heaven....ya...that's where we were!  Oh and our sides of fries and coleslaw were prepared well too- the coleslaw was dressed nicely and had a fresh crunch to it and the fries weren't at all greasy. 

Brownie Waffle $8.50
Can you believe we had room for dessert?  Well we didn't really but we forged ahead and ordered the Brownie Waffle $8.50.  They used brownie batter for the waffle and it was topped with real vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce.  The brownie waffle was yumm-o and the crisp ridges that the waffle iron made reminded me of those coveted brownie edges that people fight for in a traditional pan of brownies.  I had to ask the server where they got their ice cream from because it was so good I was convinced it was from some special local creamery.  It wasn't...just straight from a big ol' tub of vanilla ice cream, but it was so thick and creamy and generously studded with vanilla bean seeds.  The entire compilation was a perfect sweet ending to a great meal.

A few issues with service but none that aren't forgivable.  The first was the dark & white meat oopsy and the second was the wait between finishing our entrees to ordering dessert and being served our dessert was quite long.... like 30 minutes long.  They were super busy with patrons in the restaurant and people waiting for take out orders and I don't think they're as well equipped or prepared for such chaos yet.  The wait was totally worth it for all of the food and it didn't ruin our experience in anyway.  On the flip side our server and the owner were very very friendly and polite, always asking how we were enjoying ourselves and being interactive and smiley with all the customers. 

The joint is super relaxed and casual, exactly what you'd expect for a chicken n waffle type of place.  Big Ikea cityscape pictures adorn the walls and cafeteria style tables n chairs throughout.  Nothing fancy, but clean and you'll feel at ease here picking up your chicken with your hands to clean the bones.

Rating: (out of 5*)
Food 5.0*, Value 5.0*, Service 4.0*, Ambiance/Décor 4.0*

Overall: 4.5*: We'll be 100% coming back and trying the Jerk Chicken n Waffles, Peaches n Cream Waffle and maybe a breakfast item.  With their liquor license coming in a couple weeks this place is sure to be a hit through the summer and hopefully for many many years to come.  Thanks to Staxx for a great meal and ya'll better get your butts down there now and experience chicken n waffle heaven.








Staxx Burger Chicken & Waffle House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

VICARS VICE

2251 Rymal Road East, Stoney Creek
www.vicarsvice.ca
visited Sunday March 23, 2014

After being closed for months Vicars Vice is finally up and running again.  I'm not sure of the details of why it closed in the first place, but its clearly under new ownership and management now... and unfortunately this isn't a good thing.  Previously this place had amazing food, with fresh local ingredients and the chef always presented beautifully composed plates that were hearty and well prepared. 

The Little Ben $10
On this brunch outing I was really hoping for the same experience but it didn't quite hit the mark.  The menu has been re done and the breakfast/ brunch selection is fine, but nothing mind blowing.  Your typical bacon and eggs, with a few omelets and a waffle option is what you're gonna get to choose from.  Don't get me wrong, these staples can be fine and dandy, but the old Vicars Vice always had a few items with a bit more creativity to them.  I settled on The Little Ben $10- two eggs, a square sausage, baked beans, potato scone, homefries and toast.  My first comment when it came out was "hmmmm..well that's a whole plate of beige food!".  The eggs were cooked as I ordered, over easy, the whole wheat toast was fine, the beans were typical and the cantaloupe was not quite ripe enough yet.  The home fries were quite good with a nice crisp exterior and good seasoning.  However the square sausage (I've never heard of this...I guess its the cousin of the round sausage?) was super duper greasy.  There was a puddle of grease on my plate from it and I couldn't stomach more than a bite or two.  I was interested to see what this potato scone was and it was similar to a pita meeting naan bread.  It was quite good, but it was soaked in grease from being in the sausage vicinity and I felt the plate was just too carb laden. 

Luckily I was catching up with a girlfriend I hadn't seen in awhile so we didn't really pay attention to the food as much as we did our conversation.  Service was ok but nothing warm and friendly.  I had to ask if there were any specials for the day and she said yes but they were all sold out.  For an 11:30am seating and to be all sold out is kinda odd, but whatever.

The building has pretty much remained the same since the old Vicars Vice.  Set in an old converted church this place always has charm and character, and the morning time is especially nice with the sun beaming in the stained glass windows.  The high arches, old wood floors and clean bar area are all very nice.  There seems to be newly added little DJ booth or cove for a band up behind the bar which is rather unsightly.  I think it's completed and is suppose to be decorative but its a tall brick wall with part of it knocked down with metal rods exposed and bent in different directions.  It totally doesn't fit the charming converted church theme.

Rating:
Food 3.0*, Value 4.0*, Service 3.5*, Décor/Ambiance 3.5*

Overall 3.5*:  So breakfast might have been less than imaginative and not prepared so well, but I think I'll give the newly opened Vicars Vice another try to see how their other menu items fare.  Wing night sounds good (buy one pound, get one free) and some of the English inspired pub food like Scotch Eggs, Stuffed Yorkshire Pudding, Guinness Beef Dip and Sticky Toffee Pudding seem worth another trip there.  I'm all about second chances, so hopefully round two will deliver a more noteworthy experience. 



The Vicar's Vice on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 13 March 2014

LEMONGRASS

1300 Garth Street, Hamilton
www.lemongrassrestaurant.ca
visited Sunday March 9. 2014

My birthday celebrations continued through the weekend and I made a last minute switch from reservations we had at an upscale restaurant to Lemongrass instead.  I was craving a relaxed environment and Thai food of course.  I did not regret this impulse swap out and was happily satisfied with my celebratory meal here.

I've been to Lemongrass a few times before, but its been quite a while since my last visit, like years!!!  I literally had completely forgotten it was even here on the mountain.  Not because the food or experience wasn't good on my previous visits, but maybe because of the location- on the mountain in a strip plaza.  It's not hidden by any means and there is ample parking, but the exterior is less than eye-catching.  I was delighted to enter to a completely renovated space that had a better flow and vibe to it.  Vintage chandeliers, modern banquettes, a focal wall with stone work and bamboo and pretty orchids to soften the room.  Definitely an upgraded space that made for an enjoyable experience that evening.

I was with my family, so naturally we ordered family style- lots of dishes, lots of flavours and practicing that very important skill of sharing. Here's the feast that unfolded:


Thai Mango Salad w/ Shrimp $8
To start, a Thai Mango Salad with Shrimp $8.  A huge plate of julienned mango, red onions, bell peppers, cabbage, plump cold shrimp, mint leaves and crushed peanuts all in a spicy house vinaigrette with those big shrimp chips to garnish.  I loved the addition of shrimp in this dish as it could totally eat as a meal if just for one person.  All the ingredients were fresh but the vinaigrette wasn't spicy at all and I would've liked more of it.  There's always such a fine balance between too much dressing and too little and everyone prefers it differently.  Nonetheless I would order this mango salad again in a heartbeat...personally I would just ask for more spice and maybe more vinaigrette on the side. 
Crispy Roast Duck w/ Peanut Sauce $18

Shortly after our table of five gobbled the salad down, we were served our entrees. The groups fav dish of the night was the Crispy Roast Duck with Peanut Sauce $18.  Lemongrass toots their duck dishes as their 'house specialty' and boy are they right.  The half duck is marinated in herbs and spices then roasted in a charcoal oven till the skin is crispy.  All the fine bones are removed so you are only served the lovely meat and ohhhhhhhhh that crispy skin.... did I mention the amazing crispy skin?  This dish was served on a bed of veggies and jasmine rice on the side.  The peanut sauce was excellent too- I found myself dousing my rice in the sauce by the end of the meal.  It's a huge plate so definitely plan to share it or have some decent leftovers for the next day should you decide to tackle it on your own.  If you don't come for anything else to Lemongrass, come at least for one of their seven duck dishes. 

Pad Thai $11
The Pad Thai $11 was good and had all the right components, but I seem to compare all pad Thai's to my favourite at Miss Thailand.  My upcoming trip to Thailand might forever taint my pad thai taste buds too, but for now this was an ok plate of food that was cooked properly.  It's definitely the variations in the sauce that get me and the amount of crushed peanut topping they serve is usually directly proportional to my like or dislike of the dish.  They didn't have much if any peanut topping on this pad thai- womp womp.

Chicken Cashew $12
The 'popular' (as its marked on the menu) Chicken Cashew $12 was yummy.  Big chunks of chicken, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, peppers, onions and carrots all in a garlic soy sauce and topped with a generous amount of cashews.  The cashews really made me love this dish- I'm starting to notice a trend... I like dishes with lots of nuts in them.  And after my vacation on a cashew grove in the Philippines last year I have a new appreciation for cashews and don't ever complain about their hefty price tag anymore.  (google how a cashew is grown and the process to get them out.)
Thai Coconut Seafood Curry $14

We needed some seafood to add some more variety to our table so we had the Thai Coconut Seafood Curry $14.  The lemongrass spiced coconut curry sauce was really good and it was enough just to spoon some over rice and enjoy all its flavour nuances.  The veggies, scallops, shrimps and calamari were excellent too.  All cooked just right.  Another large dish but great for sharing.

Sizzling Beef w/ Onions $12
And lastly the Sizzling Beef with Onions $12.  Maybe my least favourite dish of the night since there were just too many onions in it.  The beef strips were tender and the char-siu sauce had a good soy/hoisin flavour but there was just too much sauce for my liking. 

Jasmine Rice served with most entrees
(Deep breath here, I'm almost done!)  Jasmine rice was served with all of the entrees and we were given one big bowl to share.  It was an excellent sauce absorber during the entire meal.  I enjoyed the decorative yet functional dish warmers that were served with some of the bowls of food too.  The service was prompt and polite and for a Sunday evening the restaurant was fairly busy with seemingly happy customers.

Rating (out of 5*)
Food 4.5*, Value 4.5*, Service 5.0*, Décor/Ambiance 5.0*

Overall 4.75*:  I'm sorry I forgot about you Lemongrass.  You're House Specialty Duck Dishes are da bomb and your new décor is lovely.  I will be back again (i'll try not to be too critical, post Thailand vacay!)  And thanks to my Dad for treating the fam to a delicious meal and thanks to me for being born and picking my celebrations to be here, hahaha!









 Lemongrass Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 9 March 2014

RADIUS

151 James Street South, Hamilton
www.radius.ca
visited Sunday March 9, 2014

Birthdays and brunch go together like Beyoncé and Jay-Z.  Imagine if I could have my birthday brunch with Beyoncé?  Those would be the best three B's all in one, LOL!!! Ok enuf already.  Let's talk about this beautiful restaurant Radius and the lovely meal I enjoyed here.

First off the décor and ambiance is perfection.  This old historic building has been lovingly restored and it is just stunning inside.  The old wood floors, exposed brick, tin ceilings all offset by the chunky tree stump tables with glass tops and that sparkly chandelier adding some glam to the space.  Big front windows allow tons of natural light to fill the room and you can't help but feel refreshed in this restaurant.  Kuddos to whomever designed this place.

Our waitress was prompt and pleasant and we were seated, given menus and drink orders taken in no time.  I went for a Misto $3, which ended up taking a bit more time than I would've liked to wait and I feel as though it may have cooled down a bit from when it was made to when it was delivered to me.  It was a good Misto (brewed coffee and steamed milk for those who don't know) and had a lovely milk foam, but was just not hot enough for me.

Traditional Eggs Benedict $14
I ordered the Traditional Eggs Benedict $14, which again took a bit of time to be delivered.  Luckily I was with a girlfriend that I don't see often, so we filled the time with gabbing away, but I was getting quite hungry.  The food at least came out hot when it did finally come and it was plated and presented beautifully.  The portion size was perfect too- enough to make up for missing breakfast, but not so much that you felt sick after.  Everything on the plate was divine, BUT and this is a big BUT...... my eggs weren't properly poached....womp womp :(  This is kinda the main feature of an eggs benny and my eggs were totally overcooked with no gooey runny yolk to break in to.  Fortunately the rest of the dish was executed perfectly.  The English muffin was toasted nicely, the ham grilled just right, the hollandaise sauce wasn't goopy and had some extra tang to it and the roasted potatoes were crisp and not greasy.  The eggs tasted super fresh though and were hearty, but I really do look forward to piercing that yolk and watching that golden sunshine ooze everywhere on my plate.  Please tell me I'm not the only one that takes so much pleasure in this yolk breaking ritual?
Maple Waffle Sandwich $14

My girlfriend had the Maple Waffle Sandwich $14, that I didn't partake in, but it looked fab.  A fried egg, house made sausage patties and crisp waffles all double stacked.  Unless you have big hands and a massive mouth, this might be a bit of a challenge to eat as a hand held meal.  Holly used her knife and fork like a lady to tackle this bad boy.

Radius has a very good website describing all their events, the menu's and their team that I suggest you check out to learn more about them.  They own their very own farm out in Carlisle, where they source a lot of their food from and of course as the name suggests they aim to use all local product from within "our radius". 

Rating (out of 5 stars)
Food 3.5*, Value 4.0*, Service 4.0*, Décor/Ambiance 5.0*

Overall: 4.1*  I'll try not to hold a grudge about my poorly poached eggs or lukewarm misto.  The flavour profile of my meal was excellent and I know they have it in them to do better next time around.  I'll definitely be back, maybe for a dinner service or to check out the bistro side of the restaurant.  This place has all the components to be top notch, they just need to execute it now.




 Radius Café + Urban Casual Dining on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 March 2014

CHUCK'S BURGER BAR

194 Locke Street South, Hamilton
www.chucksburgerbar.com
visited Thursday March 6. 2014


BURGERS n POUTINE n BEER, oh my!  This is pretty much the holy trinity at Chucks Burger Bar, so if you have an interest in any one of those items then get your butt down to Locke Street and indulge in some delicious food.  The wonderful world of Twitter informed me of the wing special on Thursday nights so we thought we'd check it out.  This isn't my first time to Chucks, but its definitely been over a year or maybe two, since I was here last.  I don't know why I waited so long to return, but after this visit I vow never to stay away that long again!

Chucks Big Bad Turkey Wings $5.50 (Thursday special)
We started with Chuck's Big Bad Turkey Wings $5.50 for 2.2lbs on Thursday nights.  (They also have a combo of wings and pitcher of Steam Whistle for $15- kind of a guys dream come true meal if you ask me.)  I was so curious to see how these turkey wings were cooked, since anytime I've had the wing off the Thanksgiving turkey its always been a crunchy, chewy, dried out mess.  That's what happens I guess when they overcook for 3 hours with the rest of the bird.  Well boy was I pleasantly surprised when these humungous wings came out super meaty, juicy n tender on the inside and crisp and saucy on the outside.  The corn flour crust was perfect without adding too much breading and the smoked lime and tequila bbq sauce we picked was super flavourful with a lil kick to it.  The veggies and blue cheese sauce were much better than average too.  This dish kind of makes me wanna roll my eyes at the thought of ever eating measly lil chicken wings ever again.

BBQ Pulled Pork & Smoked Cheddar Burger $13
Onto the burger now.  We sat there reading our menus for a good 10 minutes before deciding what we wanted since the selection was incredible.  Chucks Favourites are a bunch of burgers that have already been thought out for you like the BBQ Pulled Pork and Smoked Cheddar $13 that James ordered.  It was composed of an angus beef patty, pulled pork, smoked cheddar, fried onions and a lime and tequila bbq sauce.  The burger was delicious and super messy- burger juice and sauce drippn'-down-to-your-elbow-kinda-messy! Chucks Favourites always come with a massive serving of fresh cut fries, house made slaw and a pickle.  Generally I don't eat fries, but Chucks does them the way I like with the potato skin still on and super crispy.

Bison Burger $11
My inner chef decided to build my own burger, which took a bit of thought since there are nine different patties and seventy plus toppings to choose from.  I went with a Bison patty $11, fried egg $1.75, grilled peppers, sautéed onions, micro greens and ancho-chili mayo.  The bison patty had a great charred flavour from the grill and the rest of the toppings were yumm-o.  It's always a good day when warm egg yolk is running all over your burger.  Pat on the back to me for picking a fried egg! Build your own burgers don't come with any sides, which I actually liked since I was super stuffed and James' plate had plenty of fries and slaw to share.  I devoted all my precious stomach space to that burger of mine.

The two waitresses were super friendly and service was spot on. The girls were happy to inform me that they source all their product within a 100km radius as much as possible so you can rest assured you're getting good local food. Chucks is super duper small, so do not come here with an entourage and be patient if you have to wait for a seat to open up- its well worth it trust me!  Décor and ambiance are pretty much perfect.  A few flat screens behind the bar and those lovely pressed tin ceilings makes this a well balanced mix of sports bar meets trendy burger bistro with a lively energy filling the room.  And I should mention they have 30 beers to choose from which they serve in chilled glasses...I'd assume for those beer lovers out there this might be a highlight for you.




Rating (out of 5 stars)
Food 5.0*, Value 5.0*, Service 5.0*, Décor/Ambiance 5.0*

Overall 5.0*:  Way to go Chucks....one of my few perfect scores given out!  'Nuff said! (Watch for Chucks being featured on the Food Network show 'You Gotta Eat Here' soon.)


 Chuck's Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, 17 February 2014

VINTAGE GARDEN TEA ROOM

35 Pine Street, Hamilton
visited Saturday February 7, 2014
Since my trip to London last year and my proper high tea experience at the Ruben's Hotel, where all the Queens guest stay while visiting her, I've been on a high tea kick.  It's a lovely way to spend an afternoon with some girlfriends and chat over a tea party.  This cute lil tea room just off of Locke street has charm, character and killer scones.

We ordered the English High Tea $17.95 which comes with your own pot of tea or coffee, fresh baked scone, homemade preserves and jams, Devonshire cream, tea sandwiches and an assortment of sweets and pastries.  This is the typical spread of food for high tea and the Vintage Garden Tea Room stayed right on course with tradition here. 
Night of the Iguana Chocolate Chai Tea
The assortment of teas in incredible, as it should be at a tea room.  Green, black, oolong, chai, rooibos, herbal and English teas all available in loose leaf form.  I ordered the Night of the Iguana Chocolate Chai tea.  It was delicious with nutty rich notes and of course chocolate and warm spice flavours.  Each person gets their very own pot and it's lovely to keep pouring yourself tea all afternoon.  Although be sure to have a quick bathroom break before heading home- a whole pot of tea in your bladder while driving home isn't so comfortable, as I learned!
 
Cinnamon Scone w/ Devonshire Cream and Assorted Jams
There was a choice between a plain scone or the daily featured scone which happened to be cinnamon on this trip.  I chose the cinnamon  which was huge and came out perfectly warmed.  The top had a drizzle of icing and it was studded throughout with cinnamon.  This was my favourite part of the meal and next time I might just skip the High Tea spread and go straight for the Cream Tea $8.50 option (pot of tea, scone with jam and Devonshire cream).  This scone was moist and tender and a perfect canvas for the variety of jams on the table.  And don't forget the Devonshire Cream which is absolute heaven and gluttony.  Its basically a form of butter but so much better, with a light texture and touch of sweetness.  I used every last bit of that Devonshire Cream to douse my scone in.
 
Tea Sandwiches & Sweets Platter
 
Next came our pretty tiered platter of tea sandwiches and sweets.  As a forewarning traditional tea sandwiches are pretty pedestrian so don't be alarmed at their simplicity and lack of creativity- this is exactly how their supposed be.  Egg salad, cucumber and cream cheese and salmon sandwiches with the crusts off and cut in cute triangles.  Again nothing impressive but spot on traditional and prepared fresh here.  The sweets and pastries vary widely at High Tea restaurants and usually allow for some creativity or pizzazz to be displayed.  I wouldn't say there was much pizzazz with this selection on this occasion, but they were yummy and simple.  Princess cookies, nanaimo bars and lil tarts that I didn't have room to try. 
 
The décor is clean, charming and not tacky like some places trying to recreate an English tea room vibe.  The mismatched floral tea cups and teapots are adorable and made our tea party feel sweet and authentic- my lil niece especially loved filling her teacup with milk and drinking with her "pinky up" as she would say!  Service was just right too.  Super polite and attentive and I especially loved how our server brought my niece a colouring book and crayons when she started getting restless. The Vintage Garden Tea Room also offers light lunch fare, from salads, soups, sandwiches, quiches to pot pies. 
 
Rating:
Food 4.0*, Value 4.0*, Service 5.0*, Ambiance/Décor 4.0*
 
Overall 4.25*:  Ok so my baseline for comparing authentic High Tea experiences might be a bit high, having been served by a butler across from Buckingham Palace last year, but the Vintage Garden Tea Room is a great local alternative to a trip across the pond.  The scones are killer and the tea selection is amazing.  Gather some girlfriends and spend an afternoon drinking tea, eating scones and chit chatting. 




Vintage Garden Tearoom on Urbanspoon








Monday, 10 February 2014

HOMAGE

44 Grand Ave South, Cambridge
www.homagerestaurant.ca
visited Saturday February 8, 2014

Tag line for this post is: HOW CAN YOU SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT FOOD THAT IS PERFECT?!  You wanna read this and you'll wanna go here after... trust me! Ok ok so its in Cambridge, but that's only a 37 minute drive from the Hammer according to Google Maps.  You'll be glad you made the trip.

Executive Chef and Owner, John Baltazar, has a clear vision for Homage; to use all local ingredients and highlight them with creativity and care.  This is farm to table eating at its finest.  Chef Baltazar's food has the ability to turn a veggie-hater into a beet eating lover... you know who you are!  Let's unfold the events of the night now....
Kaffir Lime Soda $3
We all started with a house-made specialty soda, created by Sarah (Chef Baltazar's partner in crime). The Kaffir Lime Soda $3 was exotic, refreshing and not too sweet and the undertone flavour of Fruit Loops (ya you heard me right, Fruit Loops!!!) was kinda fun.  (The liquor license is en route as we speak and they have a fine selection of international and local wines, plus specialty cocktails all ready to go.)

Complimentary Gougere's
Next came our complimentary bowl of Gougere's.  Beautiful French savory pastries made with gruyere cheese that were light and puffy and perfectly cheesed.  Why can't every restaurant put thought into their bread basket like Homage?  Our palates were now revved up for the feast that was about to be unleashed.


Meatballs in tomato emulsion  $10
Meatballs in a tomato emulsion with parmesean, basil and olive oil drizzle $10.  A simple dish with familiar flavours, all executed just right. 

Polenta al Forno $7
Next up was the Polenta al Forno $7, served with a mushroom ragu & grana padano cheese.  There were a few polenta virgins at the table and they gobbled this up without hesitation, as well as the die hard carnivores who didn't seem to mind a meatless dish.  Clearly a successful plate and super tasty to boot!
Potato Salad $9
The deconstructed Potato Salad $9 had roasted blue potatoes, crispy potato chips, sweet potato cubes, smoked bacon, brown butter vinaigrette and mustard seeds.  It was plated like a piece of art and the different varieties and textures of potato was lovely.  If only we could forever rid the world of those awful potato salads in a tub from the grocery store and KFC (well maybe not KFC! Chef Baltazar has a thing for Colonel Sanders.  Don't ask...or maybe do ask him when you're there!) 
Trout & braised cabbage
And then a few mind blowing surprises came our way.  We were graced with some off-the-menu items since we were all looking so gorgeous that night.  Good looks pay off here! Joking aside we really did get two surprise dishes.  First was the Rainbow Trout on a bed of braised cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, precisely placed dots of some delicious purple puree and a lovely yellow sauce to compliment the fish.  Purple and yellow are adjectives ok, don't judge me!  This was a divine plate of food that I didn't want to end.

Trotter & mustard Lentils
And then the piece de resistance.  Pigs trotter stuffed with shredded roasted pork atop mustard lentils.  Yup that's a pigs foot, you saw right.  This nose to tail cooking is all the rage these days, making use of every last bit of the animal.  Our group was wowed by this and although Chef Baltazar was a little hesitant to serve it to us, we all insisted he add it to the menu, after we cleaned the plate.


Oakridge Farm Beef Burger $20

Now that we're done the apps we can get onto the main entrée.  And the answer is YES, I was pretty stuffed by this point in the night but kept on eating like a trooper...I knew you were asking that in your head.  I had the Burger $20 and it was heavenly.  The beef patty, cooked medium, was juicy and thick and carried the melted double smoked cheddar, caramelized onions and arugula just right.  The egg bun was soft on the inside and as I pressed down on its slightly crispy crust I got a table full of "MMMMMMMM's", all in unison.  Yup they were jealous.  The burger was served with a refreshing side salad that was lightly dressed.  Perfect to offset the rich burger.

Tanjo Farms Pork Chop with Barley $30
All the boys had the Pork Chop $30 with barley and mustard greens.  We all agreed that it can be difficult to cook a thick pork chop just right, but these ones were.  Not overcooked and dry and not undercooked and waiting to give you salmonella.  They were juicy, tasty and meaty.  There wasn't a piece left by those boys.  So the (Oakridge Farms) Beef dish and (Tanjo Farms) Pork dish is priced and created daily as the seasonal ingredients change.  You'll probably get something entirely different when you go, which makes for a new and exciting dining experience every time you show up at Homage.

Textures & Flavours Dessert $10
And last but not least dessert.  We all ordered the Textures & Flavours $10, which is another seasonally inspired creation that changes frequently.  On this night it was layers of chocolate bouchon (cake), whipped cream, praline pecans, cherries and hand churned coffee ice cream made with coffee beans from a roaster across the street.  I coulda ate a whole tub of that ice cream.  James always says we have a separate stomach just for ice cream and that even when you're full you can still eat loads of ice cream. I kinda believe him now, after that huge meal and my desire to chow down on more coffee ice cream!

Ok and quickly about the décor and service.  Amaze-ballz!!!! Exposed brick, reclaimed wood that was stained, shellacked and made into tables by Chef Baltazar himself, reused wood floors from Stratford Arena, leather parsons chairs and contemporary dinnerware.  The space reads masculine, rustic and clean.  The inner decorator in me suggests some votive candles on the tables for added warmth and movement.  Service was polite, friendly and attentive and they never missed a beat.  And one more suggestion for Homage; keep the music lively and on.  A few times the background tunes shut completely off and it turned into a library, with everyone speaking in low voices.  I like my restaurants with a chipper buzz in the air and sometimes the right music can do that for a space.


Executive Chef Baltazar
Rating:
Food 5.0*, Service 5.0*, Value 5.0*, Décor/Ambiance 4.5* 

Overall: 4.8* If you appreciate all things local, all things well crafted and all things delicious then you'll love Homage.  This is food that you wish you could cook at home, but would never ever be able too.  Take someone you hold close to your heart here and be prepared to say "OMG YUM!" all night long.  (hint hint boys....Valentines is in a few days)  I will be making my way back to Homage for their Sunday Southern Comfort food lunch buffet (read: fried chicken, biscuits, gravy n collard greens. Yes please! Reservations required).  I have no doubts that this brand new restaurant will be a success and I know many bellies will be happily filled in the near future!  As they say at Homage, go and "Pay Tribute"!







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